I’m like Sarah Brown…

… or @SarahBrownUK according to Twitter. I can only agree.

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I’m astounded that Diana is below crosswords, that’s for sure

Bad writing meme

Phil at AVPS has inadvertently set the ground for a bad writing meme. Here’s something I found in my files, which I wrote in University. Makes for very embarrassing reading indeed – and it is called- prepare to cringe – “Be(ing) Your Self? Ignorance, Identity, and Father Ted”.
Have we not come to expect that beneath every surface is a foundation? Where there is skin there is bone; Crust and Core; body and inner self. The last example however is rather vague. Is the body unique in its being the human surface? Probably not for there are things like personality, emotion, instincts etc. These examples, unlike body, are not physical, but still, nonetheless, beg for the neologism surface. The other striking thing about the examples are that they are affected, by which I mean somewhat arbitrary. As if elements of our personality, our relation to emotional response, our innermost instincts, are swimming around in the world before striking us and sticking to us like PVA glue. Indeed, of the human, only his physical body is indivdualised, that is to say that its physical separateness is from other bodies – although having said this it is still part in the process of evolution.

The determinants that piece together the elements that we attach to the three examples – the metaphysical human elements – are not assigned to one man alone. Those floating elements arbitrarily stick to one man, to be sure not at the orders of some grand plan. What is more, one man’s reaction in the world can always be mirrored by anothers involving only the same referent in the world, the same emotional response and so on. Man’s (re)actions are not his own. Quite the contrary. Those elements we attach to the three examples are not individualised like the separate body is. One body one man, as it were. One emotion one hundred men, who knows? Man’s reaction to the outer world is not dictated by himself, but by the world itself.

In Will Self’s novel My Idea of Fun, Ian the protagonist ponders on his knowing the determinants that piece together the elements attached to personality, emotion, and instinct. Life for him is simply of choices – the active conquest of cognitive activity. ‘I can actually point to my determinants’, he boasts.

Three of the twentieth centuries greatest thinkers have each tried to – at least in the abstract – pinpoint the nature of these imposed metaphysical determinants. 1) For Marx, One’s class position determines their being. 2) For Darwin, one’s natural adaptibility (species unto natural environment, not man unto capitalist economic field) determines their existence. Literally that human’s are open to change in their immediate environment. 3) For Freud, man is the sum of his childhood. Having said this 3 may well be nullified in the event of 1 and 2 being overbearing or ‘overdetermining’ in the Freudian sense.

One lesson of Self’s novel is that ‘ignorance is bliss’ – ignorance of ones determinants in anything other than the abstract. Though, for the ignorant, in this strict context, one is just as ignorant to this bliss as to that which deems our blissful ignorance. Moreover, bliss in ignorance is never really bliss, unless comparitively, which is impossible because any insight into that which one is ignorant of – here ones determinants – negates the bliss. Bliss in this formal sense is the always already unknown emotion.

What is apparent here is that quite somewhere below the metaphysical elements there should be some flat, uninhibited foundation, as we have come to expect. These arbitrary elements of the material world that we recieve in order to personalise, feel, and do, surely go some way into distorting what lies beneath the surface. For a worm in the University of Utah very recently, the surface would be somewhere between Erik Jorgensen genetically manipulating its brain in order to determine its sexual preference, and its post weaning ego genesis.

Elisabeth Roudinesco has labelled them rival contemporaries but let us for sake of argument bracket Sartre and Lacan together. Imagine (if you can) there is a self (somewhere) that is entirely untarnished by the outside world. Furthermore, imagine, in Freud’s terms, a self not principled by pleasure, which, in harmony with the ego, is constituted with ones social environment as its most dominant referent. Rather, a self intent on satisfying its drive with death – to say jouissance; beyond the pleasure principle, in a position that is not hindered by norms and values.

Our being (pre-)conscious of this untouched consciousness within us is Prof. C. Strenger’s ‘impossible task.’ But, using Lacan’s terms, this conscious self would be the ‘real’ of the self. The inability to contact this ‘real’ of the self would constitute the self’s enclosure in the ‘symbolic.’ To remind ourselves, the real for Lacan is the completeness of the world that we are severed from on our introduction to language and all things attached with symbols, that determine the meaning which we ourselves attach to things.

Our entrance and position within the symbolic order regards our relationship with the phallus – the order of the Paternal law which symbolises the notion of being with its acronym. This law which is constitutive of the way we see (and are conscious) of ourselves is bound to, as Sartre’s existentialism would concur, position us into something ontologically skew-whiff. In this very sense a being without accordance to its foundations – bad faith. When one acts in bad faith, they do so in accordance with the symbolic order. Conversely, were one to accept the unlimited freedom of himself, no matter how illiberal his immediate environment, he would return to the real of his self, as Sartre’s example of the waiter in Being and Nothingness tells us.

In much the same fashion as Sartre’s waiter, Ardal O’ Hanlon’s character Dougal in Father Ted on being recommended to be himself around any women, goes on to display an overexaggerated version of his self:

NIAMH: You haven’t told me your name, Father.

DOUGAL: Mmmm … Be yourself … FATHER DOUGAL McGUIRE!

NIAMH: Oh, right …

The character Dougal’s bombastic introduction sets up his over-self as the comic focal point. A Lacanian reading of this would point out that the character is a priest, and whether consciously or not, carries on the Paternal law with his position – regardless of his particular subversions and comic scepticism. The important question remains – what is the real of the self? And moreover, what are the metaphysical qualities of the real of the self?

Let us analyse these following words: All is with cause – few with intention. It is a summery of the arbitrary sticking of floating determinants that piece together our metaphysical workings, the escape wheel, the gear train, and the pinion of our inner selves. The self is literally nothing but the
sum of its determinants – it is a blank slate metaphysically. This is the very real of the self – the un-self. As aforementioned, the body is separated from other bodies, the mind is constituive of the material world, of which is assigned to no one person. If, as Richard Dawkins has pointed out in his essay in the Companion to Genethics, anything genetically determined can be overcome, it is negated in favour of the view that the mind is – in its real state – nothing other than the format of its perceptions. Ignorance remains of the specific elements of what is most determining of ones determinants and, in order to pursue this impossible bliss, so it should remain.

0.8% growth Q3 still needs to be viewed with caution

Unfortunately, today’s growth figures act as a Rorschach test; the coalition government and its supporters see growth at 0.8% in the third quarter of 2010, and growth for the last six months at 2%. What the opposition will see is a drop of 0.4% when between April and June growth was positioned at 1.2%.

Since growth was forecasted far lower than expected, many – such as Vince Cable, who was said to have a big smile on his face this morning, possibly after finding out the data – are probably just pleased to see a higher figure, not because it is necessarily a good sign for the economy, but simply because it will make for easy smoke and mirrors. Look we can cut and grow, it’s easy.

Others may note that the worst of the cuts have not been factored into the figures yet. It’s important to note that cuts will have been factored in already; the squeeze for many councils started a while ago, redundancies are a reality now, and small and medium businesses (SMEs) are already checking their books with a grimace.

Construction was the real winner with contributions of 4% (p. 3), compared with an increase of 9.5% in the previous quarter, and 11% since Q3 2009 and Q3 2010.

Read in a certain way, today’s figures will prove politically opportune for the Tory/Lib Dem government, which may set back Labour’s current lead in the polls. But it is not mere politicking to point out that the severity of the cuts, spelt out in the CSR last week, have not been entirely factored in, and that growth really needs to be sustained and sustainable.

There is even tension within the government about the road to growth. Vince Cable has recently slammed David Cameron’s optimism, saying that the “sunlit uplands” strategy will not necessarily be the case. If he has any sense about him, Cable’s supposed smile this morning will be matched by caution.

In Cameron’s “new economic dynaims” vision, he wants to “make sure we have a banking sector that is really focused on small business lending … rather than the banks thinking how [they] can become bigger and bigger investment banks.”

Cameron hopes to get those banks which the government has a stakeholder share of, to start lending again and fuelling a private sector revolution.

According to a recent NEF report entitled Where did our money go? the 2009 budget noted that RBS needed to lend an additional £25bn (£9bn – mortgage / £16bn – business); Lloyds an additional £14bn (£3bn – mortgage / £11bn – business); Northern Rock an additional £5bn in 2009 / £3-9bn from 2010 onwards.

After the bailout, there was disappointment that the banks were increasing the bonus pot without actually kickstarting small businesses with money. In an ongoing discussion I had with an acquaintance, I was reminded that the bailout was paid in order to cover liabilities at the time, but the reason behind doing so, and not allowing them to fail, was so they could start lending again – for this is the reason why those banks are too big to fail.

How low can they go

I attended a debate last night on poverty and the spending review held by the Orwell Prize people. I had a lovely time. A highlight of the night was Louise (HarpyMarx) asking the panel how anyone could qualify use of the word “fair” or “fairness” when the spending review was anything but that.

In attempt to deflect the question put to him by Louise, panellist and Chief Economist at Reform, Patrick Nolan instead tried to put her on the spot with questions, answers to which he had in his hand. The point made by Louise was absolutely vital, but obviously not something Nolan had an adequate answer for, so he took to finger pointing.

Instead of leaving it there, Nolan has written an article on the Standpoint website. In it he describes his position again. But also, brings up Louise’s question, to try for the final time to point his finger. In the article he says:

I took the chance to ask an audience member whether she had seen the HMRC statistics on the tax gap (tax avoidance). She said yes. I then asked her to clarify which taxes were most prone to avoidance and who are the people who are most cheating the system. She couldn’t. I had the statistics with me and pointed out that the largest gap in the tax base relates to the VAT, that excise taxes like tobacco and alcohol are highly prone to avoidance (people importing these goods themselves) and that many small businesses engage in income-splitting to make multiple use of the personal income tax allowances.

I have left a strong message on the comments thread, which I also want to print here, defending my friend and co-bloggers comments.

I attended the debate last night, and on your point regarding your exchange with an audience member, she asked a question to the panel on why the word “fairness” has been used to describe the spending review when civil servants, the poor and the disabled are being hit disproportionately to those with the broadest shoulders – which relates to the point that families will be hit twice as hard as the banks.

Her question to you, if anything, was that as a public sector trade unionist herself, whether you could explain to her why civil servants were being punished more than the top deciles – including the top 1% of super-rich who have come off almost undamaged.

The honest answer – and even Osborne himself recognises this, albeit without too much worry – is that the assumption of the working class is that they remain static while government is taking advantage of them, while “capital flight” might hold government stranded to do anything. It’s a false dichotomy, but it’s the honest answer; the honest answer is certainly not that it’s fair – which is the one being pushed by yourself last night.

Instead of answering the question put to you, instead you asked of the audience member a question you had previously sought the answer for, in attempt to deflect responsibility as a speaker to answer, and not ask, questions, but also to try and make the participant look stupid.

After your ticking off by the moderator, and your childish refusal to talk any further, saying, and I quote “what’s the point”, it was you, and not the audience member, who came out looking rather stupid. This is ultimately confirmed in your attempt to point fun at last night’s participant in this article. But your readers should know that your cowardice was proven in your inability to admit that Osborne’s measures are not fair, they demonstrate political blackmail at the myth that the rich cannot be punished because they will all leave, making it incumbent upon the government to overburden an innocent public sector workforce/those at the lower end of the economic scale.

George Osborne’s risky business

Context: From a Keynsian perspective, in a time of economic vulnerability, fiscal credability should be the plan for medium term, while support for the economy the plan inthe short term. Nowhere in history can anyone cite an example where cutting deep and quickly in a time of European, even global, economic unrest, is the right thing to do. Osborne is taking too much of a risk, not seeking the real alternatives, and not being fair upon the poor and those dependent upon welfare.

(Sources: Duncan / ConservativeHome / BBC / Left Foot Forward

Chavez and Ahmadinejad; Morales and Garcia

Chavez once again cemented those relations with Iranian premier Ahmadinejad. Receiving a warm welcome in Tehran, Chavez said that their country’s diplomatic relations are based on common goals – a snide remark based upon anti-Americanism, putting to one side any thought about progressive goals and values.

Some optimists still reckon Chavez’ relationship is beneficial to his aims of receiving energy, now that Iran are set with help from the Russians, and Venezuela is planning to have its first power station.

Since the election of Ahmadinejad, the two countries have signed 80 bilateral agreements.

The kind words and extended hug shared between the two leaders sets to remind us just how far the relationship between the Islamic Republic and the Bolivarian revolutionaries has come; simultaneously reminding us how saturated has Chavez’ idea of socialism become.

Though on more exciting news, across the way between Bolivia and Peru, Evo Morales – President of Bolivia and ally of Chavez – has just secured a small port about 10 miles from Peru’s southern port of Ilo, meaning Bolivia will have its doors open to “an international port, to the use of the ocean for global trade and for Bolivian products to have better access to global markets,” in the words of Morales.

He said: “Bolivia, sooner or later, will return to the sea.”

This will also be a boost to relations between the more Conservative Alan Garcia, Peru’s premier, and the socialist Evo.

Comparing the two stories, it’s not simply that socialists (Morales, Chavez) can’t and shouldn’t get along diplomatically with conservatives (Garcia, Ahmadinejad), but that socialists should not, and cannot, be aligned with dangerous fools.